The Cherry Orchard

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CHERRY PICKING Beale pines for Rebecca Hall.

CHERRY PICKING Beale pines for Rebecca Hall.

Time Out Ratings

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

We all know the hoary clichs about English versus American actors. British thespians have mellifluous elocution and restrained physicality; Americans shout and smash furniture. They have technique, we got honesty. You can leave most of your transatlantic preconceptions at the door: Sam Mendes's intelligent, satisfying revival of The Cherry Orchard features a neatly complementary Anglo-American cast.

We all know the hoary clichs about English versus American actors. British thespians have mellifluous elocution and restrained physicality; Americans shout and smash furniture. They have technique, we got honesty. You can leave most of your transatlantic preconceptions at the door: Sam Mendes's intelligent, satisfying revival of The Cherry Orchard features a neatly complementary Anglo-American cast. If there's any roughing up of movables, it's done by the very British Simon Russell Beale, whose Lopakhin celebrates his purchase of Ranevskaya's estate by impishly tipping over a dozen wooden chairs.

Mendes marshals a seasoned cast in Chekhov's last play, which revolves around a Russian manse and the adjoining cherry orchard that holds sweet and tragic memories for Ranevskaya (Sinad Cusack). Lopakhin, a former serf turned wealthy businessman, wants to help her keep the place off the auction block, but the grande dame's fecklessness and condescension embitter him. Lively and incisive, Beale is one of the evening's high points, but everyone gets to shine: Josh Hamilton as a smarmy manservant, Ethan Hawke as the ruefully idealistic eternal student Trofimov, and Richard Easton as loyal, doddering underling Firs.

More than any other Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard wears class consciousness on its sleeve, and Mendes plays up the menace with tableaux of grim peasants. Such stage pictures may recall the recent Russian-themed Coast of Utopia, and sure enough, Tom Stoppard provides the brisk and witty adaptation. Unlike The Seagull, which we've seen quite enough lately, The Cherry Orchard is a rarer, bittersweet fruit we don't get every harvest.

BAM Harvey Theater. By Anton Chekhov. Dir. Sam Mendes. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 40mins. One intermission.

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